Photo Credit: Shutterstock
While women currently comprise about 10% of construction workers, labor statistics show that the number of female workers in these roles is increasing. This trend is true for various construction jobs, including everything from roofing to construction inspectors to carpet installers.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that from 2017 to 2020, the top growing jobs for women in construction included:
- Roofers: 600% increase
- Drywall installers, ceiling tile installers, and tapers: 150% increase
- Cement masons, concrete finishers, and terrazzo workers: 100% increase
- Surveying and mapping technicians: 100% increase
- Carpet, floor and tile installers: 75% increase
- Construction and building inspectors: 55.5% increase
- Architectural and engineering managers: 45.5% increase
- First-line supervisors of construction trades and extraction workers: 36.8% increase
- Electricians: 33.3% increase
- Carpenters: 20% increase
The National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) says that while these strides are noteworthy, women still fill only managerial or office-related roles in the industry. "It's time to also focus efforts on employing more female construction workers in on-site positions that are currently underrepresented," NAWIC states.
As part of the effort to get more women into construction jobs, groups like the National Women in Roofing, a volunteer organization, seek to empower and advance women in the roofing industry. Mentors and educational opportunities from the groups aim to help women enter the industry.
"It's not nearly as hard as you might think it's going to be. As a woman in roofing, if you really know your stuff, you'll impress the customer quickly. Don't give up just because someone tells you no. If that's what you really want to do and you're passionate about it, you'll succeed," says roofing company owner Sarah Ahrendt.
If you're interested in pursuing a role in construction, here are some things to know about entering these jobs:
- Roofers: There are no formal education requirements, but some roofing companies offer apprenticeships. Ahrendt started as a roofing salesperson and stepped into doing the actual roofing when the opportunity came up, and she approached her boss to ask for the job.
- Drywall installers, ceiling tile installers and tapers: Most of these workers learn on the job. A formal educational credential is not necessary. The International Union of Painters and Associated Trades offers apprenticeships, training and mentorships. Drywaller Lydia Crowder suggests women should check with local supply stores, hardware stores, and Sherwin-Williams to see who might be hiring. There are also online courses that can help teach you these jobs.
- Cement masons, concrete finishers and terrazzo workers: There are no formal educational requirements. Nikki Mills, a plant manager at a concrete company, says she got her start by getting her commercial driver's license to drive a cement truck. She then used that position to move up in the organization, even helping build the New Orleans levee wall after Hurricane Katrina.
- Surveying and mapping technicians: Surveying technicians usually need a high school diploma, but mapping technicians need more formal education after high school and must learn technical applications such as geographic information systems (GIS). Check local resources such as the New York State Association of Professional Land Surveyors that can offer information via webinars and steer you to the proper licensing regulations and education.
- Carpet, floor and tile installers: No formal education is required, but some learn the trade by becoming helpers to experienced installers. You can also become a Certified Tile Installer through a certification program. Local technical school programs may also offer programs, as well as local unions.
- Construction and building inspectors: These inspectors examine worksites, either alone or as part of a team. Such jobs require a high school diploma and at least five years of on-the-job training (many carpenters, plumbers and electricians become inspectors). Many states require a license or certification. However, earning an associate degree in building inspection technology can give you a leg up in the field.
- Architectural and engineering managers: A bachelor's degree is required in architecture or engineering and at least five years of experience in one of those fields.
- First-line supervisors of construction trades and extraction workers: Also known as construction foremen, these supervisors require inspection of work progress and making sure equipment and worksites are safe and specifications are met. Knowledge of building, construction, engineering, and public safety and security is required, which may come from on-the-job training or more formal education. Various certifications and state licenses are usually required.
- Electricians: Most electricians get on-the-job training through apprenticeships or by going to a technical school. Most states require licenses to be an electrician. Tanya Hicks, an electrician, says she became licensed after getting into an apprenticeship program at her local electrical union and completed the five-year program. She later went on to start her electrical contracting firm.
- Carpenters: Most carpenters get apprenticeships to receive the necessary training, whether installing kitchen cabinets or building bridges. Women can join the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and become a "UBC Sister" to get skills and certifications and access resources to help them in their careers.
With construction jobs often offering better pay and schedules than traditionally female-dominated careers, more women who have had their careers jolted by the pandemic may find that now is the right time to join the industry and begin learning new skills.